Monday, January 11, 2010

Vertical Farming in Time

The people at Time have made the vertical farming system of Valcent the 16th best invention of 2009.

Now the writeup says: "pioneering a hydroponic-farming system that grows plants in rotating rows, one on top of another. The rotation gives the plants the precise amount of light and nutrients they need, while the vertical stacking enables the use of far less water than conventional farming."

The picture seems to show 6 racks of lettuce growing, though I don't see the mechanism to rotate them.  But assume it's there--then if you rotate the 6 racks through the 24 hours of the day, each rack gets 4 hours of direct sunlight.  I find it conceivable that lettuce could grow with that much sun--greens usually require less than vegetables.  What I do find inconceivable is that there's any place on this green earth where the sun shines overhead for 24 hours in the day.

Now I may be misunderstanding, instead of a vertical rotation they may be talking about a horizontal rotation. Again, I don't see the mechanism in the photo, but if you rotated the whole stand then each plant would get 1/4th of the available sunlight.  Again, I've my doubts.

Looking at the data on the company, I observe the stock price of Valcent, which is publicly traded, is much lower than in the past--not the profile of a promising company. Nor do the various releases cite any real concrete achievements, just a bunch of golden futures to come.


Charlie said...

If you want to see how it works check out this video of the full VertiCrop vertical farming system at work. This is the only system to date that is ready to market worldwide and it really works:

Farmscrapers and the like are pie-in-the-sky ideas, but ad VertiCrop to each floor and you have a real money maker.


Bill Harshaw said...

Sorry, but I must disagree. I watched the video and it seemed to be mostly old guys in suits talking about how great it would be. The perspective from below does seem to show that the system rotates the plant pans on a horizontal axis.

I checked out the zoo's website (the ceremony in the video was a few months ago) and they haven't posted any update to say how it has worked out.

I googled for how much sunlight lettuce needs and the answer I got was 4 hours (direct sun equivalent). I don't see how the system they displayed could provide 4 hours sunlight to each plant, particularly in winter in Britain when the days are really short.

So, I must remain a skeptic.